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Sophomore Spirit Excellence in Leadership Forum
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Food for mind and body: (Picture) Diane Loeble, Lee Aldridge, Betty McFadden and Unice Stevens prepare to serve lunch to the students participating in the SSELF program. (Picture) The students hold a mock trial with the help of Newton County personnel.

The Sophomore Spirit Excellence in Leadership Forum was held March 3 at the Covington First United Methodist Church. Forty-Eight students from six area high schools participated in the annual Service Guild sponsored event. Panelists included Bill Loeble of Beaver Manufacturing, James Johnson of DeKalb Technical College, former Covington City Manager Frank Turner Sr. and Louly Hay-Kapp of the Covington YMCA. Facilitators included Trey Bailey of Steelco Buildings, Arlesha Little of BB&T, Jason Dees, pastor of the Covington First Baptist Church, and Michelle Green of McIntosh Commercial Bank.

The highlight of the SSELF Program was a Mock Trial complete with Newton County court personnel. Alcovy Circuit Superior Court Judge Samuel D. Ozburn officiated, Assistant District Attorney Buck Levins was the prosecuting attorney, Louis Schiappa of the Newton Public Defender’s Office was defense attorney, Kelly Bray was Court Reporter, Douglas Clifton of the Newton Sheriff’s Office was the arresting officer and Deputies Mark Polite and Debby Torbett of the Sheriff’s Office Traffic Unit were bailiffs.

Twelve student jurors found the defendant, a fellow student, guilty of possession of marijuana. Judge Ozburn urged students to beware of whom they associate with. "You can get in a lot of trouble just by virtue of association and being in the wrong place at the wrong time." All students were encouraged to examine possible future careers in law enforcement and careers in the court system.

SSELF is a day-long event held annually to promote leadership skills among high school students. Participating students are selected by the school counselors for their potential leadership capabilities. This year’s participating schools were Alcovy High, Eastside High, George Walton Academy, Newton High, Piedmont Academy and Young Americans Christian School.